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How Grammy nominee Brent Faiyaz is building his career off streaming

"One day somebody will give me 20 million dollars to do it and to keep doing it," he said.

When Grammy nominee Brent Faiyaz and his manager, Ty Baisden, were offered a record deal with a quarter million dollar advance, they walked away. Instead, they opted to go independent.

New artists usually seek notoriety by signing with a major label. But the contracts often leave them with few rights to their music and little-to-no longterm earning power. In recent years, however, more and more artists have decided to buck signing with a label and pursue their independence, according to veteran music attorney Richard Grabel.


The best contract that Faiyaz and Baisden reviewed, for example, gave them 18 percent of the royalties — money paid by the record label to the artist for each time a song is played or purchased.

“I look at everything from 100 percent of a pot,” Baisden said. “I'm thinking to myself, I'm like 18 percent out of a hundred. So if we do a two album deal, that means that if that both of those albums combined makes, let's say, $10 million in profits, I'm getting paid 18 percent of that. That doesn’t make sense to me.”

After scooping up a Grammy nomination for his performance on GoldLink’s “Crew,” Faiyaz and Baisden chose the indie route. They set up their own company, Lost Kids LLC, and invested $30,000 out of their own pockets for a debut album. Now, they use data from streaming platforms like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music to build their fan base. Knowing who plays Faiyaz’s music — and where — helped the duo sell out a tour across the United States and Europe.

“I believe that the system that we're building is based off of transparency,” Baisden said. “And one day somebody will give me 20 million dollars to do it and to keep doing it.”

This segment originally aired on March 22, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.